Over the past month we’ve had 2 major incidents in our military that led to multiple fatalities. On 17 June, 7 Sailors died when collisionoccurred between a merchant vessel and the USS Fitzgerald off the coast of Japan. On 10 July, a KC-130T crashed in Mississippi killing 9 Marines from VMGR-452 and 5 Marines and 1 Sailor from 2nd Marine Raider Battalion.
For a host of reasons veterans struggle with how to respond when events like these occur. Here is a list of healthy responses as well as some things to avoid in the immediate aftermath of military casualties.
WHAT VETERANS SHOULD DO:
- Change your profile picture or post a comment to support the Service Component or Unit. Showing solidarity after a tragic event is common among military services and first responders.
- Reach out to a Shipmate or Battle-Buddy that you think may be connected to the event. Take them out …or just go be with them. It also might be a good idea to reach out to fellow service members or veterans who experienced a similar episode. The exposure that a military accident or incident in the media can bring unpleasant memories back to survivors of other events.
- Help raise funds for Survivors. Be part of a positive turnaround and be a positive leader to show the community that their military needs their support in war and peacetime accidents. Facebook offers the opportunity to create fundraisers.
WHAT VETERANS SHOULD NOT DO:
- Don’t post information on social media such as “RIP John Doe” until well after an official press release has gone out. Many times (especially in the case of Reserves or National Guard) unit leaders, chaplains, and grief counselors are still tracking down the next of kin. This happens often with units that are overseas or on maneuvers away from their home station.
- Don’t call the unit. The military units who have just suffered casualties are extremely busy. Following a mishap, any information that comes from unofficial sources could be wrong…and is definitely premature.
- Don’t be an “armchair quarterback.” Until an official investigation is released no one really knows what happened. Feel free to provide insight based on your expertise if the situation dictates, but do your best not to speculate on the cause of the mishap.
A simple rule is that we shouldn’t treat these events any differently than we did while we were in the military. Be supportive, be a leader, and most importantly remember that we are part of a large community of warriors who served and continue to serve.